From Lyon to Bali: A French Family’s Courageous Journey of Selling Everything for a New Life
Meet: Romain, Emilie, Charlie, and Mia
From: Lyon, France
Arrived in Bali: June 2022
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you originally from?
We are a French family of four who used to live in Lyon. I (Emilie) met Romain in 2012 when he owned his restaurant. We both have a taste for travel and in 2017, still a young couple, we decide to leave for 6 months in South East Asia in backpacks. 6 months of intense freedom.
When did you first arrive in Bali, and what brought you here?
On returning, we decide to start a family, to buy our house, to have a dog. In short, a stable situation. I got pregnant with Charlie quickly despite my endometriosis, then some time later with Mia, who was born at the start of the pandemic. During this time, the idea of leaving France never left me and I managed to convince Romain to sell everything to go and live in Bali with our 18 month old and 3 years old.
What motivated you to move to Bali, and how did you go about making the decision to do so?
During our trip to Southeast Asia, we only stayed a week in Bali because we were in a hurry to discover other destinations. Despite the 9 countries travelled, Bali marked us with its cultural richness and atmosphere. The island was the top 3 of our destinations, alongside Japan and Thailand. When the question of expatriation arose, we immediately headed for Asia, but it was a question of choosing a safe destination for our daughters, inexpensive, with the sun… a fairly easy destination. Bali came back to us. We knew that the biggest challenge will be the professional aspect but we wanted to try our luck.
Where in Bali do you currently reside, and what made you choose that location?
We live near Kerobokan. Arriving in Bali, we stayed in Jimbaran. We liked this neighbourhood because everything was new. We were also very quickly confronted with the crazy traffic of Bali. On arrival, Romain very quickly applied to many places to ensure our financial security and serenity. He found it quickly at the Intercontinental hotel and we were very grateful. However, we had big discussions about our place of residence because the houses in Jimbaran did not please us and schooling for girls seemed more interesting to us near Kerobokan and Umalas area. I also wanted to get closer to the French community which is very concentrated around the Umalas. So we move to Kerobokan.
What is the schooling experience like for your children, and how has raising a family in Bali been for you?
Honestly? The best thing ever! One of our goals when we moved to Bali was that the girls could be bilingual because in France we are really not good at languages. We can say that today at 3 and almost 5 years old, they understand and speak English. It is one of our greatest prides. Beyond the incredible open-mindedness that Indonesia brings them. They have a real passion for Balinese culture: they love to see Balinese dance shows, listen to gamelan, see ceremonies. Regarding the school, they are at the Umalas Kids Club and it’s magical to see all these nationalities rub shoulders. With children, everything is so much simpler. Whether you’re Argentinian, French, Russian or English, you have fun and if you don’t, you move on to the next friend, regardless of the language. A great life lesson, right?
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced since moving to Bali?
Like many, being away from our family and friends is a challenge. But I think as a wife and mother, my biggest challenge was figuring out who I really was. This expatriation was a great ordeal because I have a very intense relationship with my parents and leaving them to find myself without them was experienced as a real detachment…which I needed! I experienced real moments of solitude. Even though I am lucky to have a loving husband always by my side, I had to build myself personally and professionally.
Can you walk us through what a typical day looks like for you living in Bali?
Wake up around 6.30am by Charlie or Mia who come in our bed. Breakfast all together then departure for school around 8:15 am by scooter. We live near their school, it’s a strategic choice given the traffic in Bali. Then we spend the morning together with Romain. He starts work around 1.30 pm, it’s a huge chance to have so much time together for a chef. In France, he worked 6 days a week from 7am to 10pm. We take the opportunity to discover new places, work on our business, have lunch together… Then, in the afternoon, I devote myself to my personal work: creation of a website, learning the Indonesian language, development of my skills. My afternoons go by quickly because at 4pm, I pick up the girls from school. Then, the 3 of us go home where we enjoy the end of the day at the pool, the girls will also spend time with our Balinese neighbors whom they affectionately call “Kakek” and “Nenek”.
How has living in Bali influenced your personal and professional life, and what opportunities have you found here?
As I said above, this first expatriation is a personal and professional challenge for me especially in my decision-making. Before, I often made my decisions with my parents, now I can only count on us as a couple and me. It’s a real novelty for me that brought me my share of indecision and brought up a lot of lack of self-confidence. But I’m working on it. Bali gives me strength that I didn’t have before. When I see how far we’ve come, I’m proud of it because we’re often told “how lucky you are” indirectly, people dream of doing what we’ve done but don’t dare. It was my wish: I didn’t want to wake up at age 60 and tell myself that I had missed something. There are no problems or excuses, only solutions.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about Bali, and how would you correct them?
I would say that there are two: that of the Balinese and that of the influencers. I fell deeply in love with the Balinese culture and the smile of the locals. Of course, some things really annoy me like the way of driving (especially when you have children) because they don’t realize the danger of their driving (and let’s not blame it on the driving of foreigners, for once , I think they know the rules of the road better).
Apart from that, the real Bali is beautiful, incredibly rich.
The Bali of influencers is laughable. We see them doing it and it clearly lacks authenticity. I mean, who has a blast swinging over a rice paddy in a long robe or eating breakfast in a swimming pool? It’s hard on the digestion! When my friends come on vacation to Bali, we make them discover a beautiful mix of the old and the modern: the landscapes, the rites but also beautiful restaurants or places to discover.
How have you adapted to the local customs and traditions in Bali, and what have you learned from the experience?
When we arrived, we became interested in this culture by going to temples, attending shows, observing the offerings every morning… A few months after our arrival, we were lucky enough to attend a ceremony of the 3 month of a baby. It was magical ! We had put on our Balinese outfits and were welcomed wonderfully by the locals. With my Instagram’s account emilie.di.bali, I advocate the love of this culture but sometimes I am afraid that I will be criticized for “appropriation of culture”. But I never had any complaints. In general the Balinese are very proud to see that foreigners are interested in their culture.
What I notice the most about their way of thinking is the way they appreciate life thanks to “karma”. A project is not done? It’s karma. A loved one dies? It’s karma. This does not prevent them from being sad or angry, but they accept life’s events more with resilience. A great life lesson.
How do you see Bali evolving and changing in the future, and what impact do you think this will have on expats living here?
In our business, we have two houses for rent. We are not going to lie to each other, the real estate business is reaching new heights in Bali. But we have always refused to build on rice fields, the treasure of Bali. Many expats devastate the nature of Bali with the consent of the Balinese landowners who take a handsome sum of money. It always hurts my heart when I hear old people say “before, when I passed here, it was fields of rice fields as far as the eye could see. Today, you only see shops or cafes.” And that was only 10 or 20 years ago. In Bali, everything goes fast, very fast. Stores open, close, re-open. It would be as long as the government decides on the rules of town planning to preserve its jewel. It’s the same with pollution, but that concerns all of Asia.
What would you say is the best thing about living in Bali?
And also the same temperature all year round, the spiritual atmosphere, and the wealth of expat nationalities.
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